Drug lab boosts security after protests

PUBLISHED: 00:03 12 December 2001 | UPDATED: 11:01 03 March 2010

A CONTROVERSIAL drug research company is stepping up security at its Suffolk lab following a high profile three-year campaign by animal rights activists.

A CONTROVERSIAL drug research company is stepping up security at its Suffolk lab following a high profile three-year campaign by animal rights activists.

Huntingdon Life Sciences, whose laboratory employs 350 people, has applied for planning permission to erect a bank of floodlights to illuminate the front entrance at the site at Occold, near Eye, in a bid to protect staff who have been subjected to a hate campaign following disclosures over the company's treatment of animals.

The new measures would be the latest addition to the tight security surrounding the research centre which has lain at the centre of a nationwide storm of protest over its experiments conducted on animals.

Razor wire surrounds the lab after animal rights protestors vowed to close the company down. The Government was forced to step in when the firm faced financial disaster as it faced a loss of more than 1,100 British jobs.

Earlier this year, the Government threw the firm a lifeline when it offered to act as its banker after high street and city backers deserted the firm in the wake of a campaign of threats and intimidation by activists who have promised to "teach them a lesson".

Activists were furious when the Government brokered a deal between anonymous American investors to safeguard the future of a firm, whose research centres on new treatments for major diseases such as Aids, cancer, heart disease and Parkinson's.

Claiming that around 70,000 animals, including rats, dogs and monkeys, are destroyed in the labs each year as a result of the tests, protestors have refused to be cowed by new laws announced by the Government in a bid to police the activities of anti-vivisectionists, who gather under the name Stop Huntingdon Cruelty (SHAC).

Its website has previously published the names and addresses of HLS workers with the chilling encouragement to volunteers to "Go Get Them'.

Extremists needed little encouragement. In past years they have launched a terrifying series of attacks on anyone associated with HLS, including spraying ammonia into the eyes of a senior lab manager in front of his wife and children.

The Government gave a special £1m grant to Cambridgeshire police earlier this year to help protect the company's headquarters at Alconbury.

Staff at the HLS site in Suffolk must now wait for Mid Suffolk District Council, who received the plans for the new security measures yesterday, to give the go-ahead for their own extra bit of protection.

No one from the firm was available for comment yesterday.

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